BASS LAKE – A 13-year-old has died and his 16-year-old aunt suffered traumatic injuries after the two were struck by a wave runner on Bass Lake today.
Late this afternoon, a family from Fresno was enjoying a day on the lake, pulling the kids on a tube behind a pontoon boat, when the accident happened.
The two teens had fallen off the tube and were in the water, and the parents, who were in the boat, had reportedly put up the red flag as is required when swimmers are in the water. The two teens were both then struck by a wave runner, driven by an unidentified male.
A surgeon and a paramedic happened to be in a nearby boat, and rushed immediately to render aid to the critically injured teens.
Michelle Miller, owner of Miller’s Landing where the incident occurred, says those two men worked feverishly to try and save the boy’s life.
“They jumped in and did everything in their power with every tool they could possibly find to save that sweet little boy,” says Michelle. “It’s a little harder up here in the mountains to get quick medical attention, and we’re so thankful that they were there and willing to help.”
A sheriff’s patrol boat had just left the dock in response to a call for service when they came upon the accident and shifted into rescue mode. Deputy Ed Greene jumped onto the pontoon boat and began administering aid to the girl, who had suffered traumatic head injury, while the doctor worked on the young boy in his own boat.
They rushed the boy to the dock, and continued working on him as Cal Fire Engines and Sierra Ambulance arrived and rescuers ran down the dock to where the boy lay.
Meanwhile, the young girl was taken on the pontoon boat over to the dam, where a SkyLife air ambulance had landed to transport her to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
While a crowd gathered along the roadways and the lake shore to watch the scene unfold, Michelle grabbed a blanket and held it up to block the view and give the family whatever modicum of privacy there was to be found.
“Our main concern was the privacy of that family in that moment to get him the medical attention he needed,” she says. “It’s just a very sad day for everyone here. “There are no words to express just how saddened we are for this family, for the parents, and for the loss of that sweet little boy.”
Tragically, though the doctor and EMS personnel worked tirelessly to save his life, the young boy succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene.
Later, when Michelle graciously took the time to talk to the press, she stressed that they do everything they can to educate their boaters on safety before anyone leaves the dock, and that they haven’t had this type of incident in over a decade.
“When customers come to rent any type of equipment, we talk to them about any boating experience they have,” she says. “We will even go so far as to drive them around in front of our dock until they’re comfortable with the machine.”
She says that there are people who “believe in their heart of hearts that they’re experts, and that may not be the case.”
“That may be what happened in this instance,” she says in regard to the driver of the wave runner. “I don’t think they quite understood that when you let off the gas on a wave runner, it doesn’t stop. It keeps going. We give them thorough safety instructions before they leave our docks and you just hope that they listen and follow instructions.”
Lt. Bill Ward of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office says that deputies will be out in numbers during the upcoming holiday weekend, working to prevent just this type of tragic accident.
“With the water level so low, there’s less room for all the boats that will be out there,” says Ward. “People need to be very cautious and of course, don’t mix alcohol with operating any type of water craft.”
It is not known whether the driver of the wave runner will face any charges in connection with this incident. Detectives are still talking to witnesses and gathering evidence. They do say that no alcohol was involved in the accident.